AUBURN — For the second year in a row, Washburn Elementary School got a grade of F on its Maine Department of Education report card.

“It’s extremely unfortunate,” Principal Holly Couturier said Wednesday. “It’s not accurate. It does not give a picture of the great things going on in this school. This is so not an F school.”

Letter grades for every public school in Maine will be released Thursday by the Maine Department of Education, an initiative of Gov. Paul LePage.

At the request of the Sun Journal, Auburn Superintendent Katy Grondin released her district’s grades Wednesday.

Walton Elementary, Auburn Middle School and Edward Little High School got D’s. Fairview, Park Avenue and Sherwood Heights elementary schools got C’s. East Auburn Elementary got an A.

The grades are based largely on test scores given to elementary students in October and to high school juniors in May.

High school scores are also based on the number of juniors who took the SAT in May. If a high school did not have 95 percent of students taking the test, it loses a letter grade.

Edward Little’s score was a D because fewer than 95 percent of juniors last year took the test. Edward Little had a 91 percent turnout. If eight more students took the test, Edward Little would have kept the C it got last year, Grondin said. Going from a C to a D “had nothing to do with student achievement. It’s very frustrating,” she said.

Overall, Auburn scores show growth in student achievement, but not enough to bump up school grades, Grondin said.

The state report cards are based on one snapshot of the year, she said. “We do not believe that grading schools accurately reflects the important work we are doing,” she said. East Auburn, which got an A, “is doing wonderful things to impact student achievement, just like every other school in our district.”

At Washburn, 55.9 percent of students are proficient in reading. The school has a high number, 52 percent, of students who move in and out every year. Enrollment on Wednesday was 252, of which 77 percent are low-income, eligible for free or reduced school lunches, compared to the state average of 44 percent.

Illustrating the school’s mobility rate, 12 new students started at Washburn this week, Couturier said. That means many students tested in the fall aren’t there later in the year, so efforts to help students grow don’t pay off when it comes to test scores.

Every student at Washburn gets frequent in-house tests to determine where they are and where they need help. Results of each student are posted on large, color-coded walls: blue for exceeds standards, green for meets standards, yellow for partially meets and red for does not meet.

Most students, 203, were on the blue and green boards Wednesday; 49 were in the red and yellow zones. The situation is the opposite in the fall, Couturier said.

She’s offering an open-door invitation for anyone to come in if they’re concerned about the F. She wants to show what the school is doing.

“If people can just see past the F enough to want more information, I’ll give people as much time as they want because I’m so proud,”Couturier said. “I won’t show fluff. I’ll show actual data. And then if people still say we’re failing, well, I don’t think they will. No one has yet.”

Students will tell visitors what they’re learning, and what’s next.

In Stephanie Smith’s kindergarten class, visitors would see children working on their own academic learning plans. Some would be working on iPads, others would be working with a teacher. Another group would be building something with their hands that re-enforces a lesson. Another group would be reading, buddied up with a sixth-grader.

In every classroom, visitors would not see all students at desks doing the same thing while the teacher lectures for more than 10 minutes, Couturier said. Students are grouped to do work they need, part of Auburn’s customized learning to meet the needs of individual students.

The impact of the F from the state means “we’re going to have children come to school and say, ‘My mom or dad says this is a failing school. So we’re not good.’ It makes them feel bad,” Couturier said. “That’s not fair. That’s where I get frustrated.”

“Do we know we have needs here? Things we need to address? We sure do,” said literacy coach Michelle Gagne. The school needs to inspire parents, community members and businesses to get involved. The F doesn’t motivate anyone to help, nor does it inspire students, Gagne said. “This is about kids. It isn’t about the governor.”

The grade won’t be the focus at Washburn, Couturier said.

“Our focus is on the student data that gives us information that informs our instruction, so we can help the students move,” she said. “That’s where our energy goes.”

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